Proposals and Processes in Your Professional Life – Carbon Five Santa Monica Talk Night October 19th

By on in Announcements, Events, Los Angeles, Process

Another month, another talk night in Santa Monica! This month’s talks on October 19th cover the softer skills of a professional’s life such participating in conferences and running processes before they run into the ground.

First, we are happy to have engineer and advocate Carina Zona! She’s in town to speak at the SCNA conference on Oct 21st at USC, but if you can’t make it there we’re hosting her at the westside. As the founder of CallbackWoman, expanding diversity of all underrepresented genders as speakers at conferences, she’ll be speaking “On Proposing Your First Conference Talk”:

Giving conference talks is a game changer. Speaking can propel a career forward, expand your network considerably, and lead to wonderfully surprising opportunities. Come learn about how to get started, and get some practical skills for doing your first proposal how to find relevant opportunities, dissecting Calls For Proposals, evaluating their for fit with you, questions it’s cool to ask organizers, the darned fair expectations to hold, brainstorming a topic, and writing abstracts!

Then Carbon Five’s Ryan Finley will be shining a light on the cold heart truth; some projects ARE doomed from the start. Ryan explains why and how to tackle the causes in “Ch-Ch-Changes: Setting the Foundation for Successful Process Change”:

Key decisions made, or not made, before the outset of an initiative can either give your team the opportunity to succeed or set them on a path to failure. We will discuss the things that can be done prior to kicking off a change initiative to give it the best shot at success, and some strategies to deal with the issues that may arise when this upfront work hasn’t been done.

Doors open at 6pm. Talks begin at 7pm and includes Q&A. The rest of the evening, until we shut down at 9pm, is free time. We also have an accompanying Slack to discuss during and around the event; contact a group admin to get an invite.

So sign up on Meetup and we will provide pizza and drinks (beer and non-alcoholic drinks), wi-fi, cool vibes and killer talks.


The 10 Practices of Healthy Engineering Teams – Part 2

By on in Culture, Development, Process, Startups

In Part 1 of this series, we introduced a high-performing engineering team at SuperStartupCorp that had automated repetitive tasks, codified its engineering practices, and adopted a learning mindset, resulting in happy engineers and happy stakeholders. Read on to learn more traits and practices that make this team so successful, and how they keep their bus factor high. (If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can head on over to Part 3).

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The 10 Practices of Healthy Engineering Teams – Part 1

By on in Culture, Development, Process, Startups

Behold the engineering team at SuperStartupCorp: their steady delivery of features, humble reception of feedback and crafting of well-architected software systems earn them praise up and down the company. The team greatly enjoys working together, and consistently leaves the office feeling accomplished, empowered, and happy.

happy_engineers

How is this team able to consistently deliver features for the business, while maintaining morale in a changing sea of fluctuating product requirements, leadership changes, and unplanned site emergencies? It wasn’t always this way.

Read on to learn the first three steps to this team’s journey towards engineering happiness. And don’t forget to read on to Part 2 and Part 3 of this series.

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Top Five Questions Founders Ask – Part 3

By on in Everything Else, Partner Interviews, Process, Startups

As a full-stack software consultancy, we at Carbon Five get lots of questions from clients past, present, and future. We’re passionate about sharing our industry knowledge, so we sat down with our leadership team and got some advice for aspiring founders and product leaders as part of an ongoing 6-part series. You can see all the interviews here.

Here, we sat down with Courtney Hemphill, partner and technical lead, to give us some insight into keeping your startup lean and functioning smoothly.

How can I find great developers to hire?

There are a couple things that I’m seeing right now that I feel like are smart plays to finding great developers. I think great developers are not people that are created in 12 weeks at a Bootcamp, I think they’re people who are really interested in solving problems, and they’ve just found that their modus operandi for solving problems happens to be in code. The equivalent holds true for design. They’re just solving problems through a visual experience versus code. Finding those people is what you want to do. That doesn’t really answer the question though so I would say that code languages are something that people get really interested in. Meaning that new languages are coming out and each of those languages can solve specific problems. Courtney Hemphill

I think great developers are not people that are created in 12 weeks at a Bootcamp, I think they’re people who are really interested in solving problems, and they’ve just found that their modus operandi for solving problems happens to be in code. The equivalent holds true for design. They’re just solving problems through a visual experience versus code.

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Habits of Effective Teams

By on in Process, Product Management, Startups

Have you ever worked on a team that went off the rails? Product teams need lots of support to run efficiently. You need to move fast, but you also need to be aligned in order to build successful products. Here are a few activities we use to keep our teams moving. We often facilitate them in Stickies.io, a product we built for collaboration, but any of these activities could also be done using analog sticky notes.

When you need to generate ideas

Rapid Rounds

We like to structure brainstorming sessions to help get the entire team working together towards a unified goal. We set a timer for 3-5 minutes to challenge ourselves to think fast and broad. Then, we review the ideas and do another rapid round, with 2-4 minutes this time. Finally, we give all team members 3 votes and prioritize our ideas based on votes. The sequence looks like this:

  • Introduce the goal of the brainstorming session
  • Run rapid rounds.You can run as many as needed. We typically reduce the time set as we go and build off of each other’s ideas.
    • Set the timer for 3-5 minutes
    • Individually ideate on post-its until the timer goes off
    • Let everyone describe their top 3 ideas
  • Give everyone 3 dots and ask them to vote on three ideas to explore further
  • Arrange ideas by votes

In person, we use post-its, sharpies and sticker dots:

Brainstorming in person Continue reading …


Creating the Dream Team: Transform Your Engineering Organization to Attract New Talent

By on in Culture, Process, Startups

The organization you've wanted to work for

It’s a common scenario for tech companies: Your hiring pipeline is dry and you can’t seem to attract new talent. You notice companies touting long lists of superficial benefits. Instead of improving your internal team, you find yourself worrying about getting a pro-grade ping pong table for the break room.

You don’t need helicopter rides or Massage Mondays to bring people into the fold. Instead, focus your energy on making lasting changes to your company’s DNA. It won’t be easy, but the results will keep your existing team happy, which translates to positive conversation about your organization. Here are a few strategies to get you moving in the right direction.

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Delivering value, Making money

By on in Process

When I begin working on a new product, I’m always looking for ways to optimize the interactions for business and user value. I believe the best way to accomplish that is to get to market as early as possible with the proposed value. By getting to market, I mean everything from talking with customers about the value proposition to releasing the smallest version of the product. You may know this method as Lean Startup. Even if you don’t, read on.

At Carbon Five, we don’t often use the word lean, but it’s not because we don’t believe in it. It’s because we don’t believe in being dogmatic about it.

flexibility sustainability reason

Our process values flexibility, sustainability and reason. We aim for a middle ground — building what our clients think they want to build, while providing ways to learn along the way. Continue reading …


Product Management For Agile Teams: Why Oh Why

By on in Process, Product Management

At Carbon Five, we build software. We build it using Agile methods. This has worked out well for us and our clients for a long time. We recently added product management as a discipline to our team. There are some common challenges we see at C5 and we’ve been deliberately experimenting with different activities and practices around product development, some of which we will be sharing in this series of blog posts.

Picture this:

Our team is working in a startup environment. Our product owner–let’s call him Alex–while business savvy, has no product management experience. He has a very clear and detailed vision of the product in its finished state. Complete with comps. Those designs, while beautiful, were not created in response to specific user problems; they’re a product of Alex’s brain alone. When our team begins work, questions arise. User stories are written against the comps, instead of against problem statements generated by research with real users. The comps are referenced, but a picture doesn’t necessarily speak the same 1000 words to everybody.

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